I’ have struggled with hard menstrual cycles since I was a teenager. Mood swings, terrible cramps, insatiable cravings, exhaustion – you name it, I was the poster girl for it. Growing up in a house full of women, I never focused on ways to manage my monthly woes because it seemed as if everyone had their issues with their cycle they struggled with. I knew when my cycle would come because I was as regular as a clock, but never would track my symptoms or bothered to pay attention to them. It wasn’t until I was a married woman I realized my monthly cycle deserved a little more attention. One day my lovely husband looked at me and said, “You’re really emotional, you MUST be about to start.” Most of you are cringing as you read that because you know how that conversation ended! After our argument and me starting my cycle the next day, I took some time to consider what he was trying to articulate to me. Weather we notice it or not, our menstrual cycle brings with it some side effects that can affect our mood or behavior.
My husband, putting so much emphasis on the fact that I “MUST be about to start,” was indicative of a deeper more complex point he was trying to state. I’m not a sensitive person, and I typically let conflict and issues not affect my emotional state. His point was that there must be something going on to cause me to lose my patience over whatever was so trivial at the moment. Although I’m sure he loved me despite the hysteria I seemed to spiral into each month, I knew my heightened emotions were hard for him to adjust to. I had to take that into consideration and find a way to manage my cycle so I could be aware of the signs my body was sending me that my time of suffering was approaching. Here are some tips I’ve learned to help me better manage my monthly.
- Know your cycle
For the past 10 years, my cycle has been spot on. Over the past five years, I’ve learned to track my cycle on my calendar so when I’m creeping up on starting, I can make a mental note. Any changes in mood, stress, emotion, or anxiety during this time are further sign for me that my cycle is coming. When issues arise that stir up my emotions I try to take into account that my body is on high alert due to my cycle coming. Working in a job full of women I quickly learned this isn’t the case for most women. Some of us menstruate each month while others are bimonthly or more sporadic. When attempting to track your cycle, monitor when you start each month. Over a few months, if you notice you’re only menstruating every two months you’ll be better equipped to deal with the onslaught of emotions that come with Aunt Flo. If you notice your periods are irregular and don’t follow a particular pattern, don’t freak out. Irregular periods aren’t an indicative sign or disease, but can sometimes just be the way your body functions. The goal is to know a time frame as to when your cycle is coming and be prepared- whether it’s monthly, bimonthly, quarterly, or twice a year.
- Have some grace
Everyone gets the benefit of the doubt when I’m on my cycle. I know I can be high strung during this time and normal things that are trivial become monumental issues for me these few days. Because of that, I try to be extra patient with anyone I come into contact with. Many times we can use our cycles as an excuse to fly off the handle, but that is a cop out. Early in marriage, my husband began to call my bluff
When I was on my cycle, he pointed out my intolerance for him only spikes because I’m hormonal. At first take, these were fighting words for me, but after a few months I realized how unfair it is for him, and anyone for that matter, to have to deal with my irrational frustration that comes and goes each month. I made it a point to take observation of my body and know when my hormones were influencing my outburst of frustration. If I found myself in a rage of emotions simply because I was PMSing, I made it a point to let the impulse pass before I communicated with him. This helped me communicate my needs more clearly with him without me flying off the handle and him tuning me out simply because I’m “emotional.”
- Treat Yo Self
Growing up, I used to be ashamed of the copious amounts of food I could eat while on my cycle. It’s was like my body needed twice the amount of carbs allowed in a proper diet. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found the balance between indulgence and treating myself when I’m menstruating. Half a pizza for dinner simply can’t happen anymore, but some ice cream or a few Oreos isn’t the end of the world. We all have those go-to items we need when we are going through our monthly. For me, it’s chocolate, for others it’s soda, pasta, or sleep. Whatever your body craves, learn the balance between gluttony and treating yourself.
Managing your menstrual cycle is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. As I’ve learned to take into account my hormones and how they affect my interactions with others, it has made me more accountable for the things I say and when I say them. Typically the emotions I feel during my cycle are valid and have roots in serious issues that need to be addressed. Tuning in to my body during my time of the month helps me to see what little issues I’ve been sweeping under the rug and not dealing with. For too long we’ve allowed our cycle to be a part of us we look down on, but if we learn to manage our monthly with grace and introspection, we can channel those floods of emotions and cravings into positive modes of self-care. Are your cycles difficult for you? Take some time next month to observe what your body is telling you it needs and try some of these tips to see if they help.